Cramps -- also known as knots -- are common in runners’ calf muscles. Whether your legs are cramping from barefoot running or regular running, the options for treatment and prevention are similar. It's often possible to remedy your cramps at home with minimal cost and effort. If the cramps do not go away, visit your doctor for treatment.
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Calf Cramping Prevention
If you are an avid runner or are prone to cramps, taking several preemptive steps can prevent cramps from occurring. One such step is to stay well hydrated throughout the day. Fluids help your muscles function properly, enabling them to contract and relax. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent cramps. Also, stretch before and after your daily run or other exercise. Stretching helps your muscles remain loose and limber and limits your chance of cramping.
If your efforts to avoid a cramp are unsuccessful, and you get a knot in your calf after running barefoot, it's often possible to treat your cramp at home. Drink a glass of water to replace the fluids you lost from running. Stretch while you are still warm, as stretching after your body cools down can result in muscle tears. If your leg cramps after your body has cooled down, apply an ice pack to help relax the muscle. Then, apply gentle heat with a heating pad or warm towel.
Massage is an effective way to remedy knotted muscles. Use lotion or a massage gel to reduce any chafing. Begin by grabbing your calf just above the ankle with one hand and just below the knee with the other hand. Push your hands together for a few seconds, release and then repeat the process. Squeeze and knead your calf gently, similar to kneading bread dough. This process can be painful at first, but the pain will fade as the muscle loosens. If you experience severe pain, lighten your pressure.
Although several stretches are effective, the standing calf stretch is effective for athletes of all levels of experience. Begin by placing your hands on a wall about shoulder height and stand about an arm's-length away. Stabilize your abs and straighten your back, and then step one foot forward and begin leaning your whole body toward the wall until your elbows are flat against it. Keep your body straight and your feet firmly on the floor. Hold the stretch for a count of 20, release slowly and repeat the motion with your other leg.